At restaurant Feu we cook on an open fire. From the restaurant we see the stainless steel of the height-adjustable grills shining above the flames. A six-course vegetable menu is prepared as standard. If you wish, you can supplement the main course with a côte de boeuf or a whole turbot from the grill. No matching wines are served, but a beer arrangement. In fact, the dishes were designed to match the beers, rather than the other way around.
That all sounds inviting: cooking on an open fire is hip and tasty, the orientation towards vegetables is conscious and contemporary; if you want animal proteins, then beef ribs and a whole fish are excellent candidates for such an open-fire preparation; and beer with food is playful and something different.
We start on the terrace with a strong Basque cider and a particularly successful amuse-bouche, a ‘Zeeuws bacon’ beet – a beautiful tip of yellow beet, treated like smoked bacon. Also the flame grilled sourdough bread doesn’t disappoint, with a mild black garlic butter and an intense barbecue basil oil.
Then strange things happen…
Two plums from the barbecue rest on a pile of sloppily cut raw apple and fennel cubes, in a dollop of smoked crème fraîche with fennel vinaigrette and surrounded by a truly enormous pool of BBQ spring onion oil. Then we get a weak onion cream topped with just undercooked, slightly tough cubes of eggplant, a generous but fatty mountain of chanterelles, and fried oyster mushrooms with the structure of an extrusion salt. All this in a particularly successful Thai tomyum vinaigrette (with lots of lime leaves and a subtle pepper).
The nice, long string jerk-kohlrabi (spiced à la Jamaican jerk chicken) – in a dusty, root-ginger puree and a ‘black spinach sauce’ that tastes slightly burnt – is adorned with a shockingly salty cassava chip. The stewed and roasted radish – with a vulgarly sweet dressing of sushi vinegar and honeydew melon, sweet potato cream and a hint of kimchi vinaigrette – is flanked by two misplaced and overpowering pieces of raw redhorn seaweed.
The final savory dish is announced as a “heap of goodies.” That turns out to be an apt description of the eclectic mix of South American kidney beans, paprika-chili cream and Asian black bean sauce (although unfortunately it does not apply to the snotty, salty tuft of pickled endive on top).
You can eat it all. But these are very strange dishes. More than dishes, they are things, together, on a plate. In some cases they look very similar to the signs we saw on Feu’s Instagram account – but as if they were drawn by a toddler. Sometimes there is something tasty, but much is simply not prepared very well.
We have suspected for some time that the chef will not be present tonight. That later turns out to be true. Bad timing, sad for Feu. But of course that should not be an excuse. Perhaps an overzealous cook spoons a little too much oil onto the plate or spills the salt. But someone came up with those dishes in advance (although they don’t all sound as put together on paper). The fact that the ‘vegan feta’ is liquid and tastes suspiciously like coconut cream cannot be a matter of a bad evening, can it? (Spoiler: it’s just coconut cream.) And that endive isn’t from this morning either.
Whatever the case, ultimately the chef is responsible. What passed for ‘red wine sauce’ with the meat is a mysterious oniony concoction that is sticky in structure, but at the same time watery in taste. If you can’t leave that to your sous, you shouldn’t take on extra catering jobs when the business is open.
Fortunately, the sous can grill a piece of meat. The cote is a nice, even medium (we were not asked to do anything else) and the meat has rested sufficiently (it did not deflate during carving). It may be something for ninety euros!
Eat little meat, and if you do, make it worth it. That’s a healthy adage. And that’s how they seem to think about it at Feu, judging by the structure of the menu. But unfortunately they don’t live up to that either. Meat is expensive, and rightly so. But for these kinds of premium prices, I really expect a piece of Fleckvieh or Simmentaler, or another breed with beautiful fat marbling, or a pampered, retired dairy cow with a lot of flavor. This “grain-fed heifer from Poland” is tender, yes, but otherwise not interesting in any way. It lacks depth: the muscle tissue is not seasoned and has too little intramuscular fat to compensate for this (and it does not appear to be properly pre-salted). It may be a hefty portion, but almost a hundred euros is too much for such a bland piece. Much worse than the money is of course that this cow would have been better off living.
What is really nice about Feu is the service: cheerful, ambitious, hardworking and helpful – sharing or skipping courses, nothing is a problem. All beers come with a cheerful story and in many cases connect with what is on the plate. Such as the white grape fraîcheur in the Gooise grape ale with the plums. Like the aroma of cocoa nibs in the stout with the Chinese-Mexican ‘heap of goodies’. And like the notes of strawberry & cream-Chupa Chups in the double hopped triple IPA (with the meaningful name forbidden candy) with dessert.
That dessert is a very sweet fig sorbet with sour fig coulis, a ras el hanout crumble, something with walnut underneath, again in an absurd amount of basil oil.
So we end the evening the way we started it: in a puddle of green oil.